After a spirited and needed home win against San Jose on Thursday night, the Hurricanes get one more chance on home ice before departing for a frequent flier special five-game road trip.
With the Canes teetering at the playoff cut line and the road trip looming, this is the kind of game where a win keeps the team a bit above the fray.
To add to the fun it’s Star Wars night at PNC Arena.
As for the hockey, the Minnesota Wild are a different hockey team than when the Canes faced them a few weeks back in Minnesota. After a tough start, the team is clicking and has won five straight entering Saturday’s game.
On the Hurricanes side of the ledger, the Canes have been much closer to playing sounder hockey for 60 minutes in the past couple games despite a late collapse in Boston. But the flip side is that the team is struggling to score goals right right with two recent shutouts against. The combination of better defense but scoring struggles has the team trying to find the best of both worlds right now.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Minnesota Wild
1) The big line
The team’s best line in Thursday’s win was Foegele/Staal/Svechnikov. Warren Foegele has been among the team’s best and most consistent forwards recently at least in terms of compete level and being difficult to play against. He and Svechnikov worked well together converting that to offense on Thursday with Staal mostly doing his thing driving the puck into the offensive zone where good things can happen. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if that line can continue on the same track especially offensively.
2) Aho and company
Especially heading on the road where other coaches can more so dictate match ups, timing would be great to get two lines going. With the move of Svechnikov to Staal’s line, the trio of Nino Niederreiter, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen has been reunited. That line was the team’s best for the front part of the surge in 2018-19. Niederreiter had a post on Thursday and has shown signs of maybe finding it. Teravainen has pretty quietly been among the team’s best forwards all season. And after a slow start, Aho has at least had spurts of strong play despite not really finding an extended rhythm yet. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if this line can find the ignition switch to start clicking like it did last season.
3) 60-minute effort
As noted in the introduction, the team has been closer to finding complete 60-minute efforts recently. On Saturday, I will be watching to see if the team can find the magic formula coupling sound for 60 with more offense.
At 7:07pm at PNC Arena the puck drops. May the force be with the Canes tonight.